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Portable Music Device Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is on the rise! For children, exposure to loud, constant noise is more prevalent than ever. A recent study, undertaken by researchers from Erasmus University, links portable music devices to future hearing problems in children. According to the ASHA Leader article that breaks down the study:

“Even using the portable music players just one or two days per week (regardless of how long they wore headphones or how high the volume setting), these children were more than twice as likely to have hearing loss when compared to children who did not use these devices at all.”

That’s a bold, frightening claim, but parents should realize there are still ways to help protect their children’s hearing. Volume level and length of exposure — despite the prevalence conclusions of the study — are still major determining factors in later-life hearing loss. Limiting time and sound level is strongly advocated. It will help!

When asking your children to turn down their music or take out their earbuds for a while, REM recommends explaining why you’re telling them to do so. Teach them good hearing etiquette early in life, lessons they can apply years down the road. Teach your children (and other adults you may know) to take care of their hearing now.

For more information about how long it takes (and how loud it needs to get) before sound causes hearing loss, you can check out one of our past blogs.

Good Eating Means Good Hearing

There are a few obvious things you can do to maintain your hearing. Wear ear protection, avoid excessively noisy environments, and don’t crank up the volume when using earbuds or headphones. Basically, common sense.

But did you know that eating healthy can help your hearing, as well?

What food should you eat?

The key seems to be diets that are heart-healthy, since a strong cardiovascular system is crucial to good hearing. Strong blood flow feeds the cochlea, a key portion of the inner ear where tiny hair cells translate sound waves into the electrical signals that our brains decode as sound.

In a recent Washington Post story, the director of Boston’s Conservation of Hearing Study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Sharon Curhan, tried to make things as simple as possible: “To follow a hearing-healthy diet easily, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables … especially those rich in beta-carotene or folate: dark orange produce such as carrots or cantaloupe and leafy greens such as arugula, kale, and spinach.”

Protein should also be a regular part of the diet, especially if it comes from fish, because their omega-3 fatty acids also contribute to hearing health.

Much of this advice stems from a major study published in 2018 in The Journal of Nutrition. Entitled “Adherence to Healthful Dietary Patterns Is Associated with Lower Risk of Hearing Loss in Women,” it followed over 80,000 women from 1991 to 2013.

The consensus on diet and hearing has been building over the past decade from this study and several others that have shown what a powerful impact good eating can have on good hearing.

2022: Year of Hearing

With 2021 finished and done, we’re once again greeted with the promise of a new year. If you’re still searching for a resolution, how about approaching 2022 as your “Year of Hearing”?

2022: The year to finally make the most out of your hearing aids.

Hearing Goals

1. Catch up with new technology

Hearing technology is changing all the time, and it’s in your best interest to keep up with the latest advances.

Every month, REM holds DEMO DAYS, open to anyone who wants to participate, a good way to get hands-on access to the progress of the hearing aid industry. Want to know more about rechargeable hearing aids, for instance? Our Demo Days may be just what you’re looking for.

If your aid is old, if you’re curious about what features you may be missing, you can also schedule an appointment with your audiologist. Even if you simply have questions, it’s good to know what hearing healthcare tech is out there.

The more you know, the better you can approach your hearing path.

2. Expand your hearing aid’s reach

Assistive listening devices can help in day-to-day hearing, especially in office or classroom settings. One popular product is Oticon’s ConnectClip, an accessory that “turns your hearing aid into a wireless stereo headset.”

The ConnectClip is exciting remote-control technology, a go-between, a device that can transmit phone calls, virtual meetings, or digital audio directly to your aid. All you need is a smartphone.

There are also TV and music aid accessories, digital apps, and phone adaptors, all ready to make your digital hearing life easier. Always remember: hearing aids are a line to the world around you. Different devices can strengthen that connection.

3. Utilize all of your aid

If you’re happy with your hearing aid, be sure to talk to your audiologist about exploring all of its included features.

Take the Oticon More™, for example. The More line of aids offers you everything from smartphone connectivity to brain-like-learning programmable settings. Some aids even have tinnitus relief (utilizing Oticon’s own Tinnitus SoundSupport™ system) where you can control and adjust a range of sounds “until they give you the relief you need”.

4. Socialization

This is a big one here at REM, and something you can easily do on your own. Interaction with the people around you can help your ears and, in turn, your brain. Both are connected.

Think of your brain as a muscle, one that needs to be exercised. The stronger it gets, the more situations you allow it to work or to comprehend speech-in-noise, the more your hearing can potentially improve.

It’s not good to be all alone, and for those with hearing loss, social interaction is crucial.

REM’s resolutions

As for us at REM, we’re still here and committed to being by your side during your hearing journey. For those new to hearing loss, we want to make the transition as easy and productive as possible. For those who have been with us for years, we want to continue being of service, offering you the best in hearing healthcare.

Here’s to a healthy, hopeful, and terrific 2022!

Turn Your Hearing Aids Up to 11

Hearing aids are amazing tools that adequately improve hearing for the vast majority of people dealing with hearing loss. But in some situations, they need a little extra power or specificity, which is when assistive listening devices (ALDs) are handy. How can you turn your hearing aids up to 11?

Several unique, adaptive technologies are increasingly commonplace:

  • Induction Loop Systems: These harness the properties of electromagnetic fields to amplify sound. They are being incorporated into the design of modern public spaces like museums, churches, concert halls, and schools. Surprisingly simple, they’re based on a loop of wire surrounding a space that establishes a magnetic field that a receiver (such as a hearing aid or handheld device) can tap into. This allows sound that is being routed through an amplifier or transmitted for an audience—like a speaker, musicians, or audio tour—to be more prominent for a listener using a hearing aid than the ambient background noise that might otherwise make listening more difficult.
  • Localized FM Transmitters: Creating a very contained FM field—in other words, a radio station for a specific place—works on the same principle. Hearing aids or other devices can then be tuned into the proper frequency to hear the augmented sound (though interference from the crowded surrounding radio spectrum can be more of an issue). Oticon’s Amigo system is a good example of an FM transmitter for classroom hearing solutions.
  • Infrared ALD: This sounds complicated, but these systems use light waves to transmit sound by communicating with receivers via an infrared signal. Not suitable for outdoor use, since sunlight interferes with them, these systems are most often found in theaters and depend on specific receivers, not directly on hearing aids.
  • Personal Amplifiers: Popular for one-to-one communication. Basically, one person clips a microphone attached to an amplifier that allows the hard of hearing person to more easily hear. Oticon’s ConnectClip works well.

If your hearing aid can’t do it all, remember to speak to an audiologist to see what options you have.

Managing a Hearing Aid Thanksgiving

After last year’s COVID holiday wipeout, family get-togethers are coming back strong. For those with hearing issues or new hearing aids, that might mean—once again or for the first time—dealing with the challenge of a loud, crowded holiday. Though this can make family fun difficult, there are a few steps you can take to make this hearing-aid-Thanksgiving easier.

Where to Sit and Stand

Remember that old real estate cliché: location, location, location. Where you plant yourself in a room can be crucial. Try to avoid being in the center of things. At dinner, shoot for the end of the table. That will cut down on the amount of sound you’re dealing with on either side, which can be disorientating and overwhelming.

The same goes for the football game in the living room. Stay away from the TV—more specifically, its speakers—and aim for the edges of the gathering. Just be aware, the farther away from a conversation you are, the more difficultly you may have listening in. As we wrote in a past blog, the hardest part of new social situations is the unknown. You’ll often find yourself simply (pardon the expression) playing it by ear.

Go Easy on Yourself

All this can be tiring. So, another good strategy is taking a break from the hubbub. A walk around the block right before or after dinner will clear your head and give your ears a rest. If need be, you can also find a quiet room for some downtime. Give yourself a chance to recharge!

Others are There to Help

Your hearing aids are there to assist you! If new, they may take some getting used to, but remember not to get frustrated. Some aids may even come with programmable settings for different environments. These settings, if properly used, can be very helpful.

Also, there’s no shame in letting those around you know what’s going on! If you’re new to hearing aids, politely broach the topic, ask those present if they wouldn’t mind speaking to you a little slower and maybe away from the crowd. This will make things easier for everyone—especially you.

And most importantly, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Enjoy the time with those around you.

COVID and Hearing

As has become clear, nothing is easy with COVID-19. Even with vaccines widely available, the current wave of infections will inevitably result in more cases of what is known as long-haul COVID. So, what’s the relationship between COVID and hearing?

Long COVID

What has become clear over the last year and a half is that a small minority of people who get infected do not simply “get over it” — no matter the treatment they receive. Instead of their symptoms wrapping up after the acute phase of the disease has run its course—usually, about two weeks—these unlucky folks, about 10 percent of those infected, have symptoms that linger.

For those who required hospitalization, a recent study published in The Lancet found that about half were still feeling the effects a year later. Fatigue, muscle weakness, and shortness of breath are the most common signs of long-haul COVID.

COVID and Hearing

For those affected, are further hearing issues a problem? Can those who contracted COVID and then recovered be plagued with issues that may include bouts of tinnitus and vertigo, and (for some) sudden onset hearing loss? According to Healthy Hearing, the jury’s still out. Maybe, but much more research is needed.

But some say it’s possible. One theory is that such ear-related problems are rooted in the havoc that COVID can wreak on the body’s circulatory system. There is now a syndrome identified as coronavirus blood clots, which can be especially problematic in the kind of tiny blood vessels that are crucial to ear function.

This may be the root cause of why tinnitus—a persistent ringing in the ears that is not associated with actual sounds—has (anecdotally) been reported to have gotten worse for many after getting COVID.

At this point COVID long haulers are the focus of a tremendous amount of medical research and, hopefully, treatments will eventually be developed. If you think your hearing loss has gotten worse – due to COVID or not – it’s best to speak with an audiologist or hearing specialist immediately.

Hearing Aid Summer Accessories

The summer vacation is back! With lockdowns being lifted, it’s time to hit the road again. But if you depend on hearing aids to make your daily life—especially interactions with strangers—more positive and fulfilling, then you’ll want to make sure that everything stays in working order while you’re away from home (finally). So, what hearing aid summer accessories will you need?

There are the obvious things to remember, like spare batteries or the recharging unit—since a hearing aid without electricity is just an earplug. The obvious is easier to forget than you might think.

Hitting the beach, a national park, or any other outdoor activity will also mean that your hearing aid may be exposed to more dirt, grime, and moisture than usual. So don’t forget the cleaning kit for the end-of-the-day tune-up, the dehumidifier for the overnight drying out of a unit that’s been exposed to the elements, and extra wax guards and domes that you might want to use to provide extra protection on your trip.

And if it’s been a while since you’ve been out in a crowd, don’t forget the Bluetooth external microphone that may have come with your hearing aid (the one that wasn’t too useful on Zoom calls). It can really help out in an unfamiliar room with a great deal of ambient background noise (like a Vegas casino room, say).

A vacation with a better hearing experience will be a better vacation. If you use a hearing aid, make sure you have everything you need to keep it working its best for you.

Summertime Localization and Outdoor Activities

Since it’s summer, odds are you’ll find yourself outside more than usual, and whether you’re going to street festivals, fairs, amusement or water parks, you’ll want to be aware of your hearing aid’s localization features.

What is localization?

Localization is the ability to determine the direction and placement of sound and noise, and is important for spatial awareness, balance, and location comprehension. Those with hearing loss often have trouble with the localization of sound.

What does this mean for summer activities?

Being able to hear the world around you is an incredibly important part of staying aware and safe, and unlike at home or indoors, the sounds of an outdoor environment can be a bit more unpredictable.

If you find yourself surrounded by a lot of people, you’ll also be surrounded by a lot of sound. To someone with hearing impairment, this could be like hearing a low roar, a flat level of noise coming from no particular direction. This not only limits your interaction with those around you, but can also cause safety issues.

What can you do?

  • Be sure to talk to your audiologist about how your hearing aid processes sound in a 3D environment.
  • Before you buy an aid, research different brands. Oticon Opn™, for instance, has a lot of good localization features, including rapid noise reduction and speech clarity support.
  • If you notice an increased difficulty hearing or comprehending speech or noise in big crowds, don’t ignore it. Maybe you need another hearing assessment, or maybe your aid simply needs an up-to-date adjustment.

Don’t waste your summer worrying about noise outside.

Talking To Parents About Hearing Loss

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. For some, it is the ideal month to get a hearing assessment or schedule that diagnostic follow-up. For others, it may be the perfect time to reach out to the loved ones in their lives — their parents, close friends, and relatives — to help give them the gift of better hearing.

Talking to parents about hearing loss – and whether they need hearing aids or not – can be hard, but the quality of life improvement a single hearing assessment can provide is worth what might be a difficult conversation. So, what should you say? How can you bring it up?

Benefits of Hearing Help

1. Hearing is all about the future. If your parents take care of their hearing now, they will benefit down the line.

2. Hearing aids will not just improve the way they hear the world, but how they experience it. They’ll interact with more sound, perceive more information, understand what people are saying to a much greater degree.

3. Their self-image will improve. They’ll be better able to reconnect with old friends and join in conversations. If they’ve been feeling left out or isolated, hearing assistance can help bring them back.

4. Hearing healthcare and devices are getting better every year. There’s no reason to think of hearing aids as obtrusive or outdated. Today’s aids are better designed and more easily connected to the devices already in their lives.

5. Hearing aids can protect against cognitive decline and can strengthen brain training, or the ability to comprehend speech against background noise.

Tips for the Talk

1. Make an event out of it. Mother’s Day is this May. Father’s Day is in June. Sitting down to talk, maybe with some brochures, could end up being a thoughtful gift.

2. Start small and work your way up. Urgency is important when dealing with hearing issues, but don’t push too hard, too fast. Being fitted for aids can be a big step in someone’s life.

3. Ask them to take an online hearing test.

4. Find a hearing center. Some offices may have open-house demonstrations and offer no-risk trials.

5. Accompany them to their appointment. Ask questions and take notes. Your personal engagement could help ease them into this new stage of life.

For Mother’s (and Father’s) Day

Helping your parents with their hearing loss could end up being a needed change in their lives. Just as they were there for you growing up, you can be there for them now, helping keep their world full of sound, meaning, and joy.

If your parents are due for a hearing assessment or need hearing aids, there is no better time than Better Hearing & Speech Month. There is no better time than the present for talking to your parents about hearing loss.

BHSM 2021

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a yearly hearing healthcare event designed to help raise awareness about auditory health, wellness, and communication disorders. The BHSM 2021 theme is “Building Connections.”

What is BHSM?

BHSM is known primarily as a hearing industry affair, a time when audiology clinics and hearing specialists can focus their efforts on getting the word out about hearing technology advances, public health information, and more. BHSM has been around since 1927, and each year focuses on a different aspect of hearing care.

This year, ASHA breaks down the month into 4 weeks:

Week 1: Untreated hearing loss in adults
Week 2: Early intervention
Week 3: The role of Speech-Language Pathologists in COVID-19 recovery (1)
Week 4: Hearing protection for children

Why is BHSM important?

BHSM is all about recognition; not just recognition of the struggles of the hearing loss community, but also their triumphs. It offers hearing care practitioners ways to reach out while allowing patients and those with hearing loss ample opportunities to pursue treatment and show the world their progress.

The staff at REM have always been big boosters of Better Hearing & Speech Month. We strongly believe the best way to help people on their hearing loss journey is to make sure everyone has access to information about yearly advances in hearing technology and hearing help benefits.

If you agree with how important this month can be – to you, to the lives of many people with untreated hearing loss – there are even ways you can help extend a helping hand.

What Can You Do To Help?

ASHA has a comprehensive list of resources you can print out, share, or connect to on social media.

More importantly, you can use BHSM 2021 as an opportunity to talk to that special someone in your life who has hearing loss, one who might not be getting the help they need. Managing hearing loss can change lives for the better, and with care and attention, can help open up and revitalize the world.